Before starring on MasterChef Junior, Ben helped run Big Ben’s Bodacious BBQ and Delicatessen in Gary, Ind. with his late parents, who died 3 years ago in a murder-suicide.
The teen competed on season six of MasterChef Junior, which was hosted by Gordon Ramsay. At the time of the competition, Ben was 11 years old. While he didn’t finish out the full season, he placed in the top 18 and quickly melted viewers’ hearts.
Gordon took to Twitter to express his heartache over Ben’s loss, writing, “We lost a Master of the @MasterChefJrFOX kitchen today.”
“Ben you were an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man,” his message continued. “Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. Sending all the love to Ben Watkins’ family with this terrible loss.”
EndemolShine North America and Fox Entertainment also shared their condolences.
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ben Watkins, a beloved member of the MasterChef Juniorfamily,” a statement read, which was sent to E! News. “Ben overcame so much in his life with a remarkably positive attitude. He was a tremendous role model for chefs of all ages and will be dearly missed by everyone at EndemolShine North America and Fox Entertainment.”
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